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If I loved data, I wouldn't have studied rocks.

December 19, 2018

That's not me in the picture, but I do have a rock that looks exactly like that. On my windowsill. Like most geologists I put rock samples around the house, the office, even in people's Christmas stockings ('tis the season, after all!). 

 

Yep, I love rocks. That's why I'm a geologist.

 

But lately my world of rocks and earth and all that goes with them has been invaded by an army. An invader that goes by a number of names - data science, big data, analytics, AI, machine learning, cognitive computing, cognitive AI, unsupervised learning. Have I missed any? I'll go check my latest Journal of Petroleum Technology, because they are all in there. In every single issue.

 

Apparently I'm not cool if I don't want to join the digital revolution. Or I'm in denial if I don't want to alter my workflows accordingly. I may be naive, but I think it's going to be a while yet before a computer can replace a geologist.

 

Don't get me wrong - I have no doubt that data crunching has changed, and will continue to change, myriad aspects of our lives, and the geosciences are no exception. But why must I be assimilated? I studied rocks in school, because I loved it. I've spent my career studying rocks, because it makes me happy. I'd like to continue to focus on rocks, but my conferences, my journals, my e-newsletters, my network's LinkedIn updates, essentially everything is now data this and data that. The rocks are quickly disappearing. Hopefully we'll soon realize how important they still are. 

 

I do see glimmers of hope. For example, the learnings coming out of the Hydraulic Fracturing Test Site 1 are really exciting. We have lots of fancy models for hydraulic fractures, but they look nothing like the real thing. How are we going to figure it out? By looking at the rocks. I'm in!

 

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